Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder

“Timely, accessible, affordable health care is a human right. We have failed to deliver that in this country, and it’s time to fix that.” – Jeanne Pinder

Pursuing the deeper narratives behind health care stories throughout her professional career, Jeanne started as a journalist at the age of 13. Celebrated by Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, as well as the New York Times, the Tow-Knight Foundation, and the McCormick Foundation’s New Media Women Entrepreneur’s Program, Jeanne launched ClearHealthCosts to bring transparency to health care by sharing cost information in a searchable, online platform through crowdsourcing out-of-pocket expenses from patients.

WZ: When you first launched into the professional world, what career paths were you considering and how did you end up where you are?  

My first job was as a reporter at my family’s twice-weekly newspaper in Grinnell, Iowa. I started when I was 13. When you write for a small-town paper, everyone you know sees your writing, and they will let you know if you did a good job or not. You learn quickly that way. You learn to perform fast, on deadline, and to make no excuses. In college, I worked my way through school at that job, around 30 hours a week. By the end, I was ready to do something else, and went to graduate school in Slavic linguistics, thinking the life of the academy was one for me. Not true!

I’m good at finding stuff out and telling people about it. Journalism found me and wouldn’t let me go. For that reason, I think of ClearHealthCosts as journalism—an example of what some are now calling “single-subject sites.” It is a business, but a journalism business.

WZ: How do you invest in developing leadership and confidence among other women? 

Like many others, I benefited greatly from other people’s mentorship early in my career, and I give back as much as I can. Helping people sort through their options and doing “informational interviews” is one of life’s true joys. I am also fortunate to be a member of two terrific online groups: XX in tech, founded by the amazing Rachel Sklar and Glynis MacNicol, and the TechLady Mafia, founded by the extraordinary Aminatou Sow and Erie Meyer.

These remarkable groups of strong, smart, powerful women have been a source of resources and recommendations, a great place to have a conversation about important topics, and a shining example to me of how we can all work together to make the way easier for the women standing next to us – and those who come behind us.

WZ: What person motivates your imagination and dreams?

There’s much more than one answer to this question!

  • My mom, who is a constant source of inspiration, courage, and support. She raised six kids in a house full of books, lively conversation, and deep generosity.
  • The Russian dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Joseph Brodsky, and others. I have just been working on an “Ignite” talk about how the health care industrial complex is like the former Soviet Union, where I used to live. The Russian dissidents are much on my mind for their courage, in the face of great personal danger.
  • Martin Luther King. What a breathtaking example of deep courage and resolute passion to make people’s lives better. He refused to take “no” for an answer and we all owe him a deep debt of gratitude.

WZ: How do you pursue creatively flexing your leadership talents?

This topic pursues me: I don’t have to pursue it! As the founder of a startup that is working to change the entrenched, business-as-usual world of health care, I can safely say that every day is a challenge of vision, leadership, problem-solving, and trying to effect change in the most meaningful way possible.

WZ: What do you do to stay inspired?  

We hear from a lot of people who are in great pain over the current state of the health-care marketplace. Everybody you meet has a story, and many of them are not pretty. These first-person experiences with a broken system are the best possible inspiration for us to keep doing what we’re doing: to help people who are whipsawed by costs and made to feel powerless by what seems like an enormous, monolithic, impenetrable system.

Timely, accessible, affordable health care is a human right. We have failed to deliver that in this country, and it’s time to fix that.

Disruptive Women in Health Care proudly recognizes Jeanne Pinder as one of its 2014 Women to Watch.

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